Starring Jamie Foxx, Chistoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio
Quentin Tarantino has, more than 95 percent of the other filmmakers out there, inspired many to try their hand at the filmmaking game and most, if not all of those trying, went the route of the screenplay. Why? Well one viewing of Reservoir Dogs or Pulp Fiction will show you just how whip smart his screenplays and dialogue can be. And who wouldn’t want to try and recapture the pure exhilaration (and receive the accolades) that so many felt after watching one of his movies? I’ve been there and I bet some of you reading this review have been as well. But the guy has earned his stripes and 20 years into his career, can still command an audience and still inspire some to buy a screenwriting program and give it a try. But his newest movie may be his most frustrating…but not in the way you might expect.
Django Unchained, QT’s newest movie, is a hard movie to nail down. Beyond the fact that it deals with a still hot button issue of slavery, how do you take that topic and make the movie entertaining without coming across as ignorant and insensitive? And most importantly, how do you get people to buy into the fact that you’re not making a movie about a hot button issue to just try and be controversial and sell tickets, but that you really have something to say? And do you have to make a movie like Django that needs to have something important to say? This isn’t as easy as making a WWII picture that rewrites history and kills Hitler. This is about a culture in a part of this country that was deemed acceptable and a way of life, despite the misgivings of many living up north?
Django (Jamie Foxx) is just another face in a chain gang of slaves that have been sold. As they make their way across Texas with their new owners, they happen upon Bounty Hunter/Dentist Dr. King Shultz (Chistoph Waltz) who is looking for the man who can identify the Brittle brothers. That man is Django. Django and Schultz strike up a bond and Schultz asks him to assist in the bounty hunting game, with the promise, after winter ends, they will track down the plantation where Django’s wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) has been sent to.
That leads Django and Schultz to Candie Land, whose owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a man who loves the sport of fighting and views most of his slaves as talent that he intends to make sure the money that is spent is fully repaid by fighing. Django and Schultz intend rescue Broomhilda under the guise of two men wanting to buy a fighter. But Candie’s butler, Stephen (Samuel Jackson) suspect these two are up to no good and despite being a slave himself, won’t let anyone come and take advantage of Candie.
Tarantino has never been one to shy away from violence and Django just might be his masterpiece in the blood splattering dept. And if watching blood splatter is your thing, then Django’s 3rd act will have you smiling from ear to ear. And play close attention to the soundtrack, not the music, but the blood splatters. He takes everything to a new level.
So what of the entertainment value of Django Unchained? While I must admit that there are certain aspects of the movie that are a little jarring at time, that jarring aspect also come with the territory of watching a movie about slavery in the South. People conducted themselves in a manner and in a manner of speaking that most find appalling, but for the most part, that’s how life was. Tarantino plays it smart by not shying away from the harsh brutality of it all and he doesn’t allow anyone in the movie to feel sorry for themselves and their situation. Their dealing with their lives the best way they can. This isn’t a pity party; this is a movie about retribution and revenge…it just happens to be in the South, two years before the Civil War.
But where Django is frustrating is in how much I really liked it. On one level I like it quite a bit. The Tarantino of old is there along with the Tarantino of new, the guy who is more comfortable with taking chances. I love that about Django. But I don’t know if I could watch this with the sort of frequency that I watch Pulp Fiction or Inglorious Basterds. Time will tell and for right now, I give it 4 Abiding Dudes. I just wish I could’ve walked out of the movie feeling like I have with Tarantino movies of the past. The kind that make you want to write your own movie.